Even crises can be blessings in disguise, an African Baptist leader says.
Michael Okwakol, senior pastor of Agape Baptist Church in Kampala, Uganda, and president of the All Africa Baptist Fellowship (AABF), talks about challenges for African churches in a new Skype interview with EthicsDaily.com.
Okwakol, a native Ugandan and graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, was elected president of AABF in 2011. AABF is one of six regional fellowships of the Baptist World Alliance with more than 52 conventions and unions.
Okwakol cites three particular challenges for African churches: discipleship, strengthening conventions and logistics.
“The church in Africa has always been described as a mile wide and an inch deep,” Okwakol says. The continent has lots of churches, even high commitment, but little content to equip church members.
Okwakol says AABF is working to generate more literature and to program more conferences to enhance discipleship.
The conventions, he says, struggle for several reasons. In some cases, mission agencies in countries left abruptly, leaving ill-equipped nationals in their wake. Little churches bear the brunt of the work, even as crippling disasters – like Ebola in West Africa, war in South Sudan, xenophobia in South Africa – make their tasks more difficult.
“These churches are victimized by these situations,” Okwakol says. “They hardly can support the conventions and unions.”
Compounding these concerns are logistical problems, which include acquiring travel visas and paying high airfares. The ability of African Baptists to mix is difficult, yet desired.
“Despite all those things, we see the movement of God in Africa,” says Okwakol, noting that even challenges can be blessings in disguise.
“We really believe the African spirituality is alive, and it’s hot,” he says, smiling. “The spiritual thermometer is very high” as people depend on God every day.
And this July, the Baptist World Congress – held every five years – will take place on African soil for the first time. The location: Durban, South Africa.
Okwakol says Africans are excited to welcome global Baptists to the continent.
“It’s going to be a time of celebration,” he says, and “an opportunity to connect.”
Watch the interview with Okwakol at vimeo.com/ethicsdaily/skype-michaelokwakol.
Learn more about AABF at aabfellowship.org.
Watch other EthicsDaily.com Skype interviews at vimeo.com/ethicsdaily.